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Haystack Rock the Peter Iredale and the History of Astoria

Tuesday morning was bright and sunny and we were ready to take in the Oregon coast. We got out and about early because the forecast predicted rain so we wanted to take in the coastal sites before it the weather turned. 

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By 8am we had bagels and lox and coffee in hand.

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As the early bird gets the worm we were primed and ready for a full day of coastal adventures and photography. This is a shot from the famous and historical Promenade of Seaside. Seaside is the oldest beach town in Oregon, first "settled" in the 1860's  if I have my facts right from the historical society. 

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The development known as the Prom or The Promenade was built in the 1920's. Somehow I think it looked different 98 years ago. 

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It might be this picture from the historical society.

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And it might be the bricked over doors to the Prom from a number of buildings.

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Here is the view from our "resort" room window.  I put "resort" in quotations because our Best Western Plus called itself a Seaside Resort, but was lacking in all amenities one might find a beach resort. Things like a restaurant, beach chairs, and other things were no where to be found. 

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So we took a lot of pictures of Haystack Rock, then ran into a whole boatload of Minnesotans who were visiting. 

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It was a beautiful day and everywhere you looked was a beautiful photo. After a good chunk of time walking the beach, playing in the water and photographing the same angle of the rock again and again we walked back to the car to head North, to see the ship wreck of the Peter Iredale off the coast inside the state park.

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I started getting artistic, looking for leading lines and such with my photos from the ship. The shift ran aground on this beach in 1903, and now is just a disintegrating steel hull. A large portion of the ship was actually scrapped or removed for safety reasons many years ago now – but it is still pretty neat to see what nature can do. 

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The Peter Iredale was on its way to Australia filled with grain – it had one stop in Astoria before it began its long haul – but it never made it.  No one died, and no one got their bonus. Just a lesson that storms can always surprise even the best of sailors. 

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We headed into Astoria for lunch, and what we thought might be a quick walk down the main street to take in some cool looking buildings. Little did we know at the time that Astoria is the home of one of the most active historical societies who are really good at documenting the history of the oldest settlement in the Pacific Northwest. 

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But first there was lunch at the Silver Salmon Grill – an old school supper club that we chose because there were five types of salad available on the menu and clam chowder. 

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After lunch we started walking down the main street to see the cool old buildings – like the Liberty Theater above and the old Astor Hotel. Because there was a Disney Cruise ship parked in the harbor we lucked out and got a tour of Liberty Theater. 



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The Liberty Theater and the Astor Hotel buildings were built in or around 1924 after a large fire that took out a huge portion of downtown Astoria. A fire that also took out some less "physical" parts of the city, like the hold of the Klu Klux Klan over city politics as Presbyterians and Catholics and Masonic organizations all had to come together to rebuild their community. There was no longer room for the voice of division (at least this is how I interpreted the exhibit inside the historical society museum). The theater is now preserved and maintained thanks to a board, fundraising and a loyal group of volunteers – who open the doors on cruise ship days to give the tourists something to do.

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The old Astor Hotel is less lucky, it appears to now be a haunted apartment building, with no real energy around it in the way of preservation. It is however, still a lofty and impressive presence in the downtown. So speaking of Astor, it was John Jacob Astor who is to thank for the founding of Astoria. Shocking I know. 

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This is him, a German man trained in music he somehow got into fur and started an empire. In June of 1810 he founded the Pacific Fur Company with an initial investment of $400,000 and then proceeded to steal a bunch of professional traders from his rival the North West Company and this group founded an outpost on the mouth of the Columbia River in 1811 called – drum roll….Astoria. Things did not run perfectly following the founding, but the town continued becoming a hub of fishing, canning, timber and many other things throughout the years until the present. 


One of those things that have "helped" the little town continue is a small not-so-popular movie called the Goonies. Astoria has also been the home of a few other actually little known movies like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III and Kindergarten Cop. There is a small museum dedicated to the Film History of Astoria in the old county jail.  To say it is small is well, an understatement – it is tiny. Honestly, Forks does a better job with its movie history franchise than Astoria, but who is comparing. 

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We literally did everything possible in the little museum and it took us less than 20 minutest to get bored and move on.


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Which, in the end was fine, because we went to the Historical Society museum next and were inundated by all of the facts about Astoria since before its founding by the Astor party. So many facts, the historical society is quite on top of things, publishing a quarterly journal really cataloging the history of the town and the county.

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There was so much museum we had to give up on the idea of going to the Maritime Museum – so I just took a picture of it out the window. We reached a point of museum fatigue and it was time to go back to Seaside to chill out at our "resort." 


Here I am walking off into the sunset, because there are no chairs to sit on on the beach.

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We had a dinner so memorable I forgot to take pictures then enjoyed the sunset over The Prom – tomorrow we would head down the coast and then inland to the Willamette Valley region.





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